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Depressed by a book of bad poetry…

June 26, 2014

It’s been a while since I wrote about a poem here. I’ve been reading James Wright, because he writes so beautifully about Ohio and I’ve been wanting to get down to his level of detail and appreciation. I keep thinking about my favorite poem by him, “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm,” and about the irony of the last line (“I have wasted my life.”).

Last week I got an e-mail about work that felt a bit like what our housemate Miriam used to call a “letter of ruin.” It wasn’t, but it felt like that at first. It blamed me for things that worry me. So I’ve been writing a response and compiling information for my annual report, all of which is taking more of my time than it probably should. I feel like I’ve been missing June, although the weather has been so cool and rainy that it’s less inviting outside, anyway.

The Kokosing River is out of its banks near our house, although so far the sump pump is keeping the storm water out of our basement.  photo-316The farmers can’t make any hay, because even when the sun shines, the fields are still so wet they can’t take a tractor through them. Even the ones who grow what we like to call marshmallows–the big, white-plastic-wrapped bales of hay–can’t get out there to roll up any bales. Here’s a picture of a corn field near the turn-off to Gambier:  photo-315

Today I finished the final draft of my annual report. There’s lots more to do at work, but I’m taking a few days off, at least mentally. As if in tune with my mood, the sun has come out. I found this James Wright poem and it describes my mental state right now, pushing away from the desk, ready to go out and see what new kinds of water-loving bugs might have hatched out in our back gardens:

Depressed by a Book of Bad Poetry, I Walk Toward an Unused Pasture and Invite the Insects to Join Me

Relieved, I let the book fall behind a stone.
I climb a slight rise of grass.
I do not want to disturb the ants
Who are walking single file up the fence post,
Carrying small white petals,
Casting shadows so frail that I can see through them.
I close my eyes for a moment and listen.
The old grasshoppers
Are tired, they leap heavily now,
Their thighs are burdened.
I want to hear them, they have clear sounds to make.
Then lovely, far off, a dark cricket begins
In the maple trees.

I may feel like an old grasshopper, not much inclined to trying leaping heavily, but iridescent flies and dragonflies are darting around the garden excitedly, making the most of this hour of sunshine.  photo-318

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2014 6:29 pm

    You would be SO impressed with me – I went to a poetry reading last night. It was FABULOUS! Frank Bidart can really read (and write) a poem. The delivery was art, the night was magical.

    Hope the waters recede and the farmers can work, and your work thing blows over or concludes successfully and you continue to share poems. 🙂

    • June 27, 2014 8:27 am

      The delivery was art–how good to hear! There are poets who don’t read their own work well. (I think Louise Gluck is one–she whispers.) Once at U of MD I had a drama grad student tell me he thought a person should never read anything he’s written himself; that it should always be read by others. At the time, I remember pointing out how brilliant Sharon Olds was at reading her own stuff, and how well Douglas Adams read when he came to U of MD.

      • June 30, 2014 11:47 am

        Though not a poet, or I’m not aware, I suspect Neil Gaiman could read anything and it would be masterful.

        • June 30, 2014 2:07 pm

          Probably–he’s a good storyteller. There’s an art to what rhetoricians call “delivery” and many of us don’t study it anymore.

  2. Meg permalink
    June 26, 2014 11:16 pm

    Hope you get some you-time, Jeanne! I found myself walking along the Kokosing during a major rainstorm on Tuesday. Although really difficult to see with my glasses all wet (and even worse when I took my glasses off and relied on my feeble eyes), it felt like being a kid again.

    • June 27, 2014 8:29 am

      It’s been hard to take a walk without getting caught in a storm lately! Glad to hear it was fun in the end…that is so dependent on attitude.

  3. June 27, 2014 10:46 am

    Hope things go well and that the weather gets better now you’re taking time out (though yes, it’s better to have dull weather when you’re stuck indoors). I hope the situation for the farmers improves, too, it doesn’t sound good.

    • June 29, 2014 10:32 am

      Dull weather is what we often have at the end of the fall and the beginning of spring. Way-too-exciting weather is when we have thunderstorms with flooding, power outages, and a guy getting struck by lightning in the parking lot of the Columbus Crew soccer (to us Americans) stadium.
      We had a few hours of sunshine on Friday and Saturday, and I saw hay bales rolled up in one field Saturday afternoon before the rains began again.

  4. June 27, 2014 5:03 pm

    It has been really wet here too. We are setting records left and right and the poor farmers, some of them have yet to finish all their planting and at this point it is getting to be too late. Love the poem! I have never read Wright before but I think I will have to investigate his work.

    • June 29, 2014 10:35 am

      Usually I think of Wright as a nature poet, but I’ve been reading Saint Judas and those poems are different from the ones I’ve read in anthologies.

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